The Hero of Spirit and Life

Human Effort

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What are superheroes? Well does it not say it all in the name… Superman! They are super human. Better than humans. They have that “X-factor”. Something that makes them better. In the past these superheroes were part God, part man. Hercules son of Zeus the strongest man to ever live. Now there are people in general culture who believe we will one day evolve these super human abilities. Yes your descendants might one day be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. For me in the here and now I have only evolved the super human skill of digesting cheese (that is no joke click the link). When I watch TV or Movies then I know that every “hero” makes the superhuman look easy. Falling, shooting, hacking computers there is no limit to their pain tolerance, hand eye coordination, or knowledge. Those are heroes that are…

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Ecclesiastes 5:15 | Commitment

arlingtonWhat is the major commitment in life that consumes all of the time you have? Stop now and think for a few moments and think about what the number one commitment might be. We have many commitments, some not of our own choosing, but there likely is some single commitment that is most important to you. Spouse? Kids? Work? Service to a Country at war? Politics? Sports? Something material like a house or car? Maybe a charitable cause to eradicate homelessness, or hunger is the commitment? I am a practical person and my major commitment is my wife and children. Much of what I do in life is for their benefit. Take a look at the people, ideas, and things you place a commitment on and then ask to what end you are committed to those people, ideas, and things. I ask the question that way because this life is temporary. We are all going to die, and if you are fortunate you will get around 80 years of this life to work on your commitments.

Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. Ecclesiastes 5:15 NIV

Just think about how temporary that is. Is that Job in and of itself worthy of your time and effort? Is that Charity serving a cause of worth? Is the most current news on Sports Center worth the attention and time?

For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone? Ecclesiastes 6:12 NIV

I reflect on this sobering idea of the temporary nature of this life. As Americans living in the relatively peaceful west my mind drifts toward the east where Israel and Palestine are at war. Where Russian and Ukrainian fighting has accidently killed hundreds of people flying overhead at 30,000 feet. It is so meaningless and evil the end to those lives. More closely to home I look at the soldiers who serve to keep me safe, who serve to keep the shores where I live at peace. That is a commitment from them that I am grateful for, because it allows my commitment to my family to be possible.

There is one commitment I have read about that gives me pause and it is of Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth. They served as missionaries in China around 1900 to great personal sacrifice. Their commitment was absolute and it lasted a life time. Johnathan did not buy Rosalind an engagement ring he gave the money for the ring to the poor. They lived most of their productive life in Asia as missionaries suffering illness and even the death of 5 of their children. They had to flee a 1000 miles across China when war broke out. Toward the end of their service Rosalind returned home to Canada with their children and she wanted Jonathan to return with her. He refused and asked this question to her “Suppose our country were at war with another nation and I, a British officer in command of an important unit. Much depended upon me as commander as to whether it was to be victory or defeat. Would I, in that event, be permitted to forsake my post in response to a call from my family”? Johnathan eventually returned home to Canada at the age of 74 and almost blind. He then traveled preaching the gospel even preaching four times on the Sunday before his death.

Jonathan’s commitment to the Gospel of Jesus overrode any other commitment even to that of his family. I and most others may balk at such a disregard, but he viewed the world as a battle ground that needed his attention. Just like the soldiers who leave their families at home and commit to service in a war in another land Jonathan followed the same ideal.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24 NIV

I think men and women like the Goforth’s grasped the idea of deny and follow from Jesus in a way that I living in the comfort of my job, home, family, and consumerism are afraid to absorb. Johnathan was committed, he was willing to “deny” the life he wanted with all the comforts for a radical life serving Jesus. If this life is temporary and eternity with Christ is forever then are my commitments in this life really the best choices? What does that say about me if I selfishly make myself comfortable while my neighbor who does not know Christ has only this life now to look forward too? Maybe I like Johnathan should “deny” myself even just a fraction of the extreme he followed? Jesus used the word “deny” here to mean that this follower would “lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests”. This word is only used in the Gospels and only in context of words from Jesus to the disciples. Jesus calls us to walk away from the selfishness of ourselves and join Him in this work.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 NIV

Following where Jesus leads means that the plans I have for myself and the commitments I want to make may not align with the plans Christ has for me. This is demonstrated in the act of Baptism. The individual who has accepted the Lordship of Christ and wants Him to be their advocate before God symbolically is immersed under water and then raised out of the water. The old commitments, life, desires give way to a new commitment, life, and desire.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life … Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:4;13 NIV

As you think of the commitments that take up your time are there any that might not be so important? Is the one big commitment something Jesus wants from you? My commitment to my wife and children is aligned with the life Jesus wants for me, but Jesus would not accept a commitment to my family to give them only material goods without teaching them an eternal perspective that is in service to God. Would you commit to search the scripture and pray for commitments from God that should be higher in priority? The service to God will last forever. You can take that with you. Service to self in this short life is temporary and none of it will benefit us in the life to come.

Tucker, Ruth A. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya A Biographical History of Christian Missions. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

Eternal and Imperishable

I know less than I should about Heaven and I have not studied the topic in any depth. I have spent all of my energy learning and understanding the knowledge of this world. Understanding the wisdom of what makes life easy or hard, and worthless or worthwhile. I need to know more about what eternal life might be like or what purpose I might have in eternity. What I do know however is that the current grace we live under is leading up to eternity in heaven or hell. For example, if one takes advantage of everyone around them for personal gain it might work in the short term however eternally that person could forfeit their soul. But do we care? Is heaven so wonderful or hell so bad that it matters? Some decisions might be against the short term benefit, like protecting a persecuted individual against an unrighteous military force, even to ones own death. However in the eternal view that decision could be of supreme benefit. How do we know? Is it worth the sacrifice? For me I operate in faith that God has that all planned out on my behalf. God has proven trustworthy to me in the here and now, so I trust him in the future, but I wonder what life might be like in the eternal.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19 ESV

My hope is in the future. My hope is in Christ and future glory. I have hope for this life now and God has richly blessed this life more than I deserve, but this life is not my final hope. All of us are going to die, everyone you know will die. Death is ever present no matter how much we try to set it aside, or ignore what the sands of time will take away. Even if this life is destroyed and cut short, no matter how difficult that may be my true hope and my final hope is in the life to come.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ESV

Christ brings with him the power of a resurrection and while many in this present age are skeptical seeking to understand only what they see in the physical, Jesus has promised a new life. What that looks like is interestingly described by Paul.

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 ESV

A seed has a type of glory, but it must go into the ground to be raised into a new life with a new glory. What God plans for his children in the eternal life will be a new type of glory that I can’t imagine from this place of death. The new life will be bigger than the single seed that I am now. This life will also not be hounded by death. It will be new life the life of spring time. All of the pain of sin, the pain of a broken body, and the pain of broken relationships will not be present.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:42-45 ESV

New life in Christ, eternal life moves from the perishable to the imperishable. I think how quickly my life has gone by and I think of the pain in my knee and back from years of use. Life will only go by faster and my body will never be what it once was. My life is temporary and perishable. What Paul is telling me is that I need to fight against the desire to only live for the here and now. Most people seem to try to live as if this is the best life now. Do not make that mistake. Turn with me toward Jesus for the future hope that only he can provide in the resurrection of an eternal life that is imperishable.